24hrs of Rescue on Scafell Pike - and all avoidable

Wednesday 22nd February

Over the past 24 hours Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team has been involved in three ‘999’ mountain rescues.  

At 2.00 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday 21st) the team was called for four young females, under 20 years, who had become separated from their party of 36 walkers.  They were undertaking a charity walk up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.  At the time of the callout the team was unaware of the other 32 walkers, many spread out across the mountain, and how the four had come to be on their own. 

The four girls were ill equipped and never been on a walk like this before and had been up since 3.00 a.m. that morning for the drive from Liverpool. Using SARLOC their position was identified and six team members set off.  Conditions were extremely poor with forecasted torrential rain and severe winds and visibility down to 20m.  Two were suffering deepening hypothermia when the team arrived to find them huddled behind a boulder. They were warmed up in the bivvy tent and put into dry clothing. The descent can only be described as extremely challenging, even for the rescuers, and the four girls needed regular strong encouragement to keep moving.

Whilst descending the mountain the second callout came in followed by a third Scafell Pike incident.  This third incident was dealt with by Keswick MRT as the missing couple set off from the Borrowdale side to climb Scafell Pike and was deemed at high risk due to worsening conditions. This incident involved a number of teams including Wasdale MRT. 

The four girls from the Wasdale’s first incident were finally brought down to the Wasdale head car park and reunited with their friends at around 8.30 pm. 

Wasdale continued assisting the Keswick incident until it was stood down at midnight with no success.  The search for the missing couple reconvened at 8.00 a.m. this morning, involved seven of the Lake District’s ten teams, the search dogs plus a Coastguard helicopter from Prestwick.  The missing couple was eventually located in upper Eskdale around 11.00 am by the Duddon and Furness MRT. Full details of this rescue have already been reported on the grough website.

A successful outcome but the message is clear, all of the rescues were avoidable if the lost walkers in all cases had paid attention to the weather forecast, been better equipped (map and compass plus torches). 

For the four girls, organisers must keep their groups together and know where everyone is. February is not a good time to organise a charity walk with inexperienced walkers.